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Revelation 1:12-20, Mysteries of The Son of Man

Updated on February 24, 2019
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Marcelo holds a B.A. in Bible and a M.S. in education. He has ministry experience and is collaborating with church planting in MD.


Revelation 1:12, the Candlesticks

In this verse, John turns around to see the one who spoke to him, the one who identified Himself as The Alpha and The Omega, and as The First and The Last. In my previous article I explained that these two titles are a claim to divinity.

John tells us first that when he turned around he saw seven golden candlesticks. These candlesticks may remind us of Moses' candlestick for the tabernacle of congregation (Exodus 25:31-37), and of the candlestick seen by Zechariah in a vision (Zechariah 4:2-3); but these candlesticks are actually different.

Moses' candlestick was one candlestick with three branches on the one side and three branches on the opposite side; Zechariah's candlestick was also one candlestick with seven lamps, but it had a bowl over it and seven pipes for the seven lamps. On the other hand, the seven candlesticks that John sees are seven candlesticks, not one.

Like Moses' menorah, these candlesticks are made of gold, but John does not give us more details about the appearance of the candlesticks. The details about the candlesticks are not important: John tells us all we need to know about them.

Revelation 1:13-16, Description of The Son of Man

John tells us next that, in the midst of the candlesticks, he saw one who resembled a son of man. John uses the same wording used in Daniel 7:13 because he wants his readers to know he is describing a human being and because he wants his readers to associate this human being with the one mentioned in Daniel 7:13 (while some translate this phrase in revelation as like the Son of Man, the Greek text actually reads like son of man, without the definite article; thus it can be translated like a son of man).

John tells us that the Son of Man is wearing a robe that reaches his feet, and that there is a golden girdle around his chest. This description is similar to the description of the unnamed man in Daniel 10:5. The clothes are also similar to the ones work by Eliakim, unto whom God commits the government in Isaiah 22:21. In fact, John will later use Isaiah's description of Eliakim (Isaiah 22:22) to describe the Son of Man. Thus, the clothes show the Son of Man's status as king, for in Daniel 7:14, he receives dominion, glory, and kingdom.

Moreover, John states that the head and the hair of the Son of Man are white like wool and snow. This is very to Daniel's description of the Ancient of Days (Hashem, Jehovah, God the Father) in Daniel 7:9. Of the Ancient of Days, Daniel tells us that his robe was white like snow and his hair white like wool.

The Son of Man also has eyes like fire, feet like brass that was in a furnace; and his voice is like the sound of many waters: this is similar to the description of the unnamed man in Daniel 10:6. The meaning of this imagery will be developed in the following chapter of Revelation.

John finally gives us three more attributes of the Son of Man: (1) he holds seven stars in his right hand, (2) out of his mouth proceeds a two-edged sword, and (3) his sun shines like the sun in full strength. The seven stars in the Son of Man's right hand will be explained in the next few verses: they represent the angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:20). The two-edged sword represents the spoken word of God (Hebrews 4:12). The face like the sun reminds us of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:2), and Moses' face (Exodus 34:30) after he had been in God's presence; and it is also similar to the face of the unnamed man in Daniel 10:6.

Revelation 1:17-19, The Son of Man Speaks to John

John states he fell as dead at the feet of the Son of Man. The sight of the glorious Son of Man is so impressive, that John is overtaken by fear and is left without strength. John's experience is similar to the experience of other prophets. Ezekiel fell to his face when he saw God's glory, and the Spirit of God had to get him up so God would speak to him (Ezekiel 1:28 and 3:23). Daniel also fell at his face before the angel Gabriel, and Gabriel had to help him up (Daniel 8:17-18). Moreover, Daniel also felt great fear, fell asleep, and needed help to get up when he stood before the unnamed man (Daniel 10:8-10).

The Son of Man reached to John with his right hand (a gesture to give John encouragement), and he told John not to fear: this is similar to Daniel's experience in Daniel 10:10-12). Then the Son of Man declared to John who he is.

It is very possible that the unnamed man in Daniel 10 is a Christophany, a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Christ. The experience of those that accompanied Daniel is similar to the experience of those that accompanied Paul when the Lord appeared to Paul (Daniel 10:7; Acts 9:7 and 22:9). This would explain why John describes the Son of Man with characteristics similar to the those of the unnamed man in Daniel 10.

The Son of Man is The First and The Last, in other words, the eternal and unique Creator: God. The Son of Man is also he who is alive, who was also dead, and who now lives forevermore: in other words, the Son of Man is Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ died on a cross, and he resurrected never to die again (Romans 6:9).

The Son of Man, Jesus, declares that he is in possession of the keys of hell and of death. Because he died and resurrected never to die again, Jesus is in control of death and hell. The afterlife and the eternal destiny of every individual are his.

Then the Lord instructs John to write what he has seen (the vision he has experienced thus far), the things that are (referring to John's present), and the things that will take place afterwards (what will happen in the future). Thus, the book of Revelation deals events from John's time (John's present) and events that would take place in the future (even in our own future!).

Revelation 1:20, The Meaning of The Candlesticks, The Stars, and The Number Seven

The Lord explains to John the meaning of the seven stars in his right hand and of the seven candlesticks. The seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks represent the seven churches.

By now, we have seen that the number seven is important in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:4, John spoke of the seven spirits of God; in Revelation 1:11, John was instructed to write a book and send it to the seven churches in Asia; here, in Revelation 1:12, John sees seven candlesticks. Further ahead, in Revelation 1:16, John will see seven stars.

The number seven is actually important in the rest of the Bible: in Zechariah 3:9, God lays a stone with seven eyes before Joshua the priest; in Daniel 4:16, Nabuchadnezzar is given the heart of a beast for seven times, and Hebrew servants were supposed to be made free on the seventh year (Exodus 21:12), and commanded that Israel observe the Sabbath, which is the seventh day (Exodus 20:8).

In the Bible, the number seven is significant because God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:11) Thus, the number seven in the Bible (and in Revelation) represents ideas associated with the rest and completion of the Sabbath: like perfection and totality (nothing lacking).

Thus, although John is told to write to seven specific churches, these churches represent the whole church, the universal church which encompasses all believers in Christ everywhere throughout all history.

From there on, we can see that the mention of seven churches gives occasion to the development of the number seven throughout the chapter: there are seven candlesticks because each candlestick represents one of the seven churches; there are seven stars because each star represents the angel of each of the seven churches; there are seven spirits of God because the Spirit of God is present in each of the seven churches (in fact, the Spirit of God speaks to each of the churches in chapters 2 and 3).

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  1. Why was John afraid when he saw Jesus? Why did Jesus tell John not to be afraid? Should we fear Jesus?
  2. Jesus was dead, yet lives forever more. Do you personally believe this? Why or why not?
  3. Jesus has the keys of death and Hades. How does this give us comfort when facing death?
  4. What do you believe about the book of Revelation? Does it refer to the past, the present, or the future?

Prayer Prompt

Praise Jesus because though he was dead, he resurrected and now lives forever. Praise him because he has the keys to death and Hades. Ask him for understanding as we study the book of Revelation: may he speak to our hearts and may he return to Earth in our lifetime.

© 2018 Marcelo Carcach


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